This is the debut of wine reviews by Central Coast Wine Press' core tasting panel. Who we are: Michelle Lee Ball and Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding; Katie Baillargeon and Marcel Rivera-Baillargeon, consumers and aficionados; Mark Cargasacchi, winemaker/owner, Jalama Wines and Joseph Blair Wines; myself; and Laura Sanchez, wine journalist for several local and national publications.
The Jan. 21 debut tasting, presented in a blind format, included four malbecs, two from Paso Robles, one from Santa Barbara County and one from Mendoza, Argentina.
Malbec is characterized by a deep, bluish color, ripe aromas of dark fruit blended with delicate floral notes, as well as traces of mocha and tobacco. Traditionally, malbecs show a hint of flint with exceptional finishes.
Note: When I outlined the four wines' origins to my co-tasters, I erred by saying two hail from Santa Barbara County; while it's crafted by a Santa Barbara County winery, the wine bagged as Number 1 is produced from grapes grown in a vineyard located in Paso Robles.
When we unveiled the bottles and discovered my mistake, it was clear that Cargasacchi's initial comment about Number 1 — "I think this one is from Paso" — nailed it.
The group's further descriptions of Number 1 included "dusty, fruity, molasses, with firmer tannins," a wine that's "made to drink now" — and "cough syrup."
Both wines 1 and 2 were later described as "over ripe" and, following a second taste of the entire flight, Number 3 became both "more tannic" and "more flat."
After reviewing all four wines, another taster noted Number 1 was more layered, and Number 4 had more developed structure. Someone else thought Number 4 had a higher percentage of alcohol than the others, but it turned out to have the lowest, at 13.5 percent.
Guessing the order of wines poured by their origin were Marcel Rivera-Baillargeon, Cargasacchi and Sanchez, who correctly stated that the Number 1 was from Paso Robles. Jeremy Ball and Katie Baillargeon nailed the origins of Numbers 2 and 3 (Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles, respectively), Michelle Lee Ball surmised that Number 3 was from Paso Robles and I fingered Number 4 as Argentina.
As a group, we preferred the Argentian malbec for its elegance and varietal conformity.
Number 1: 2009 Oreana, produced in Santa Barbara with grapes grown at Margarita Vineyard in Paso Robles. Cost: $13; alcohol: 13.8 percent.
Number 2: 2009 Rancho Sisquoc, Flood Family Vineyard, Santa Barbara County. Cost: $21; alcohol: 13.8 percent.
Number 3: 2008 Clayhouse, Red Cedar Vineyard, Paso Robles. Cost: $30; alcohol: 14.1 percent.
Number 4: 2009 Catena, Mendoza, Argentina. Cost: $25; alcohol: 13.5 percent.
Wines 1, 2 and 4 I purchased at a retail outlet that tends toward costly; wine number 3, the Clayhouse, I bought directly from the tasting room in Paso Robles.
— Laurie Jervis, centralcoastwinepress.com